'90s Makeup Is Trending At NYFW But This Latest Version Has An Edgy Twist

You don't even need to be a makeup pro to pull it off.

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 10: A model prepares for the Jason Wu fashion show during September 2...

While there are some ‘90s trends that don’t necessarily need to be resurrected (see: low-rise jeans, leggings under denim skirts, butterfly clips...) some of the beauty trends of the decade will always have a place on the runways. At New York Fashion Week’s Spring/Summer 2023 shows, mid-’90s grunge makeup appears to be the beauty darling of the season, with wine-stained lips, hollowed eyes, and smudgy liner cropping up on runways all week — which also conveniently aligns with the ‘90s trend appearing in many designers’ collections.

The beauty of this ‘90s look is that it’s meant to be undone, meaning smudgy, smeared, looks-like-you’ve-been-at-a-rave-all-night makeup that looks better the more imperfect it is. So while other beauty trends, like a perfect cat-eye or a gorgeously lined lip, may feel a little tough to pull off when you’re a makeup novice, ‘90s makeup is much more democratic and accessible. Everyone can pull off a smeared, shiny eye á la the Jason Wu runway. You just need your fingers and some moody eyeshadow.

Brands like Wu, Proenza Schouler, and PatBo all displayed some variety of a ‘90s grunge look, either focusing on the eyes or lips. And since NYFW S/S ‘23 is far from over, you can expect to see this blast from the past beauty trend pop up more as the week continues.

For now, scroll on to see the grunge makeup looks from the Spring/Summer ‘23. Butterfly clips can stay in the past, but deep, purple lips and a smeared cat-eye? Those are are forever.

Jason Wu

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At Jason Wu, the ‘90s were a direct reference in both the clothing and the makeup. “[Jason] wanted that kind of ‘90s cool feel,” Diane Kendal, lead makeup artist keying for Jason Wu Beauty, told TZR. She opted for a thick, black smudge of eyeliner across the lids, using Jason Wu Beauty’s Solid Black Jewel Stick to create the line and then her fingers to smudge it up a bit. “We also popped the inner corner with a gold shimmer for more of a ‘90s feel,” Kendal said.

In order to keep with the somewhat-undone vibe of this trend, Kendal kept the skin dewy, natural, and luminous. She swept on Jason Wu Beauty’s Tinted Moisturizer Meets CC Cream, and then gave a little flush to the apples of the cheeks with the brand’s Blush Trio in Sexed. If you still can’t pull off the perfect cat eye? This artfully smudged version is for you.


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Glamour and grunge collided on the eyes at PatBo, which also boasted a type of smokey cat eye. But Stila Global Beauty Director Charlie Riddle leaned more into the smudge and gloss, opting for a shimmering eye with a subtle flick.

To get the look, Riddle used Stila’s Stay All Day ArtiStix Graphic Liner. He covered the lid in the hue Hustle to get an all-over sheen, before shading it over with Tango. “These liners apply really well so they’re easy to use for a cat eye,” Riddle said. He dragged the charcoal pigment out and then diffused the two hues together, creating a perfectly undone smokey eye with just two products.

Proenza Schouler

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The models at Proenza Schouler looked like they could have walked off a catwalk in 1994, a peak period for all things grunge. The look was pure supermodel: Tanned, glowing skin, bold brows, and a contoured, defined eye. A bare lip added to the fresh-faced look, which paired perfectly with the models’ slicked-back hair.

Rebecca Minkoff

Rebecca Minkoff

Not only did the team at Rebecca Minkoff utilize a very ‘90s-level black liner around the models’ eyes, but they also employed grunge-inspired facial piercings to accent the beauty look.

Sandy Liang

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Makeup artist Carolina Dali revealed via press release that, “My inspiration for this look is ‘90s beauty and style icon Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. It’s a modernized version of her effortless and minimalist makeup style. Satin skin that’s matte on the center of the face and glowy elsewhere, an effortless brown lip and natural brows.” This is a chic option for anyone wanting to test the waters of ‘90s glam without going full grunge.

A low-maintenance beauty look is always a winner, which is why ‘90s grunge always seems to come back around for fashion week. Expect to see this look pop up more and more as NYFW S/S ‘23 continues.

More to come...